These Spots Are Restoring Corn to Its Place of Honor in the Mexican Diet

They’re also hoping to make it worthwhile for Mexican farmers to grow historic strains

Eggs tortillas hoja santa for breakfast at Expendio de Mai. Photo by Rudolph Castro

“The majority of Mexicans think we’re eating a good tortilla, but in reality, people are giving us whatever they can,” said Muñoz, now 27. “Forty percent of the corn we consume in Mexico is corn from the United States, which is GMO corn.”

In November 2017, with two other partners, Muñoz opened Maizajo, a small tortillería in Roma that used only native corn. His business is now booming, and it’s not the only one. In the past two years, tortillerías and other eateries focusing on native or landrace corn have blossomed in upper-class neighborhoods of Mexico City. At each place, the corn is treated and ground with volcanic stone on-site, giving the food a deeper, richer flavor than items made with nixtamalized corn flour.

Maizajo

Photo by Daniela Moreno Aragon

Cal y Maíz

Expendio de Maiz

Photo by Rudolph Castro
Left, Tamales Madre photo by Tania Barajas; right photo by Molino El Pujol

Tamales Madre

Regina Velasco worked in urban development before launching Tamales Madre, a tiny café in the Juárez neighborhood that specializes in tamales made from native corn. The shop, which fits 10 to 12 people, offers seven types of tamales daily, plus an array of sides and drinks, each made from native Mexican corn from Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, and the State of Mexico. Velasco said the shop has drawn some foreigners, but also plenty of Mexicans who aren’t aware of how different and regional tamales can be. “It’s incredible because it’s the oldest Mexican food there is, and people don’t know about it,” Velasco said. “And if you don’t know about it, you don’t fall in love with it.”

Molino El Pujol

Spearheaded by Enrique Olvera, Molino El Pujol opened in 2018 in Condesa. More of a to-go spot than a place to stay awhile (there are around six seats inside), the place boasts a small but powerful menu of seasonally driven, corn-based items, all made from landrace corn sourced primarily in Oaxaca. “I want to promote and preserve the native landrace in Mexico,” said Olvera. “Most of the tortillerias in the city are selling tortillas base on processed masa coming from transgenic plantations and sometimes not even Mexican. It is our way to encourage the producers to keep on with the good agricultural practices through fair trade.”

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